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Archive for October 18th, 1994

MacDonald Appears in Recent Books

Tuesday, October 18th, 1994


Robert Brown and the Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition.  Edited by John Hayman, Univ. of British Columbia Press, 1989.  204 pgs., $31.95

One of Ranald MacDonald’s ventures after he returned to land and the Canadian Northwest was his membership on the Vancouver island Exploring Expedition led by Robert Brown.  Brown’s journal of the exploration, a 4 1/2 month criss-cross of the island as far north as Comox, reports the discovery of the Leech River gold fields and of a coal seem on Browns River.

The book, Volume 8 of the Recollections of the Pioneers of British Columbia, includes numerous references to Ranald as well as a picture of him and Frederick Whymper, the expedition artist, coming spectacularly downriver on a raft.  Whymper’s illustrations of expedition activities and landmarks are used lavishly in the book.

Ranald’s own original journal of the expedition, scratched out over his weeks in the field, is in the Provincial Archives of British Columbia.  It supplements some of the official reporting done by Brown in his account.

The editor refers to MacDonald as “undoubtedly the most colorful and entertaining of the group … At forty, he was the oldest of the explorers, but his persistent high spirits made him, according to Brown, a popular member of the group”.  One rainy night, Brown quotes MacDonald as saying, ” ‘ … the devil was whipping his wife’ and, if we may judge from his frequent allusions to that gentleman, he appears to be on terms of considerable intimacy …”

In addition to giving readers as account of life on the island as the expedition found it in 1864, this book gives us a rare glimpse of Ranald as seen by his contemporaries.

An Ocean Between Us:  The Changing Relationship of Japan and the United States, Told in Four Stories from the Life of an American Town.  By Evelyn Iritani.  Wm. Morrow & Co.; 272 pgs., $23.00

Evelyn Iritani, daughter of a second-generation Japanese-American father and a born-and-reared-in-Japan mother, has covered Asian-related economic, political and cultural matters for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer since 1987.  Her book reflects both her birth and her vocation; it is a first-hand look at the impact of the Japanese presence in Port Angeles, Washington, and reaction to it.  Her “Four Stories” are about four situations involving Japan-U.S. relations, the first of them telling of the “drifters” enslaved by the Makah Indians (later) rescued through the efforts of the Hudson’s Bay Co. in 1834.  She expands on the bewhiskered and fanciful fiction that Ranald MacDonald shared school-days with the trio by stating that he “befriended the Japanese sailors and traded English lessons for schooling in Japanese.”  (In fact, of course, Ranald briefly attended John Ball’s school, held from November 1832~February 1833; the three Japanese youngsters were students of Cyrus Shepherd in the fall of 1834.)  Another reference to Ranald says he departed via “rowboat” from the whaler in which he had sailed to Japan; Ranald described his craft as “custom-built” for the captain, with sails and a mast.

However, Iritani’s personal insights and interviews with contemporaries make her book well worth reading.


Gates Ajar — FALL 1994 – Centennial Tributes

Tuesday, October 18th, 1994


” … Through his great achievement Mr. MacDonald has been remembered by Japanese even today, one hundred years after his death, and is still remembered in the hearts of many Americans and Japanese as a token of the long-standing US-Japan relationship.”

~~  Takahiro Yokomishi, Governor of Hokkaido, Japan

” … On the commemoration of the centennial of the death of Ranald MacDonald, I would like to express my great respects to him, who ventured to land on the shore of Japan in 1848 at the risk of his life in order to open “the Gates of Brass” and loved dearly by the Japanese people.”

~~ Torao Tomita, Professor Emeritus, Rikkyo University; translator of Ranald MacDonald’s Original Narrative

“… I join Friends of MacDonald honoring Mr. MacDonald’s vast contributions to establishing an important friendship between the Japanese and English-speaking peoples.  That early fascination with the Japanese culture played not only a critical historical role in the future relationships with businesses and governments but also (in) illuminating the beauty and customs of Japan.”

~~ Hon. Barbara Roberts, Governor of Oregon

” … Ranald MacDonald personified the American pioneering spirit.  Seeking adventure and pursuing his vision of a prosperous trade relationship between the United States and Japan, MacDonald set out on his historic visit to our island neighbor … His vision has led to great benefit for our nation.”

~~ Hon. Mark O. Hatfield, U.S. Senator/Oregon

” … I strongly hope that this event will serve as a reminder of how strong the ties between the State of Washington and Japan are and how we all cherish the friendly relationship at the present time.”

~~ Masaki Saito, Consulate General of Japan

” … As Canadians we are happy to join in marking his career, which has drawn all three of our nations closer together.”

~~ Jean Murray Cole, Alfred O.C. Cole

” … The Society is pleased and honored to be associated with the Friends of MacDonald and its founders, mas Tomita and Bruce Berney …”

~~ Karen Broenneke, Executive Director Clatsop County historical Society

” … Keeping Ranald MacDonald’s inspirational words on international friendship in mind, and enabling Hyogo and Washington to take increasingly important roles as gateways between Hyogo and Washington, I would like to further deepen friendship …”

~~  Toshitami Kaihara, Governor of Hyogo Prefecture

[To FOM Chairman Mas Tomita] –

” … Thank you … for making the In Search of Ranald MacDonald trip and of the most interesting and vital trips that I’ve had the pleasure to put together.  Your interest in and connection with the subject of MacDonald in all his many facets made for a truly magical trip.  It is a gray morning in Portland today and it seems quite a stretch to think of all that eastern Washington sunshine.  I enjoyed being a part of this centennial observance.” ~~Adair Law, OHS managing editor/assistant to the director


Centennial messages read during the ceremonies included other distinguished persons, including Toshitami Kaihara, Governor, Hyogo Prefectural Government, Kobe, Japan; Syunsuke Tsurumi, philosopher, author of Words Spread; Akira Yoshimura, author of Festival at Sea; Masaki Takahashi, FOM Japan; Masami Obama, FOM Nagasaki; Takeyasu Morokuma; Hyroko Sonoke, FOM Japan; and a resolution by the National Council of the Japanese American Citizens League relating to recognition of Ranald MacDonald as the first American to make significant contributions toward US-Japan Relations.


Gates Ajar — FALL 1994 – TV Video Popular in Japan

Tuesday, October 18th, 1994

Nagasaki TV Video Popular

The KTN TV/Nagasaki documentary celebrating the life of Ranald MacDonald was “well received” when it was broadcast to Japanese listeners this spring, reports FOM Chairman Mas Tomita.  The documentary, produced by the station, was filmed at Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and various Canadian sites as well as in Japan.  FOM hosted the film crew at dinners in Portland and Astoria.   M. Yamamoto, director of the film, discussed the project at South Nagasaki Rotary Club meeting.

[Mr. Yamamoto sends FOM members “best regards” and “thank you” for your help during the filming trip.]